The Martha’s Vineyard Commission approved a $2 million budget, which saw increases from legal fees and the pandemic, for the upcoming fiscal year.
The commission’s revenues, which come from a combination of grants, reimbursements, and town assessments, increased by $445,053, or 22 percent, from $2 million in FY2020 to $2.47 million in FY2021.
“We had a relatively good year financially,” MVC chief fiscal officer Curt Schroeder said, adding that there were several expenses.
The commission’s legal fees increased significantly, by $109,756 for FY2021, from $43,291 in FY2020.
“I think all of you are aware of our legal fee issues that we’ve had, specifically Meetinghouse Way,” Schroeder said.
The commission denied the Meetinghouse Place subdivision 10-4 in a landmark decision in July. The project went through several public hearings. Throughout the DRI process, the project received heavy criticism from environmentalists, abutters, farmers, and other stakeholders about the size of the project and the potential impact on nitrogen loading and traffic. It also received some support from individuals noting the need for more housing, particularly for empty-nesters and workers, and citing job creation.
In the past the commission, which is funded in part by the Island’s six towns, has tried to maintain its budget increases to 2.5 percent annually, but the increased legal fees have called for more.
“We’re fairly conservative in everything we do, but the legal fees have really hampered us, and we need to be ready with that,” Schroeder said.
The revenue is expected to come from a $100,000 insurance claim. Schroeder said he expects the commission will be reimbursed in July.
Additionally, Schroeder anticipates legal fees for the Harbor View Hotel litigation will be $25,000.
After approving the project with several conditions, the Harbor View filed suit to challenge the conditions tied to the commission’s approval.
Equipment costs more than doubled to $37,904, due to expendable equipment needed because of the COVID-19 pandemic; the commission’s mortgage interest expense decreased by $20,487, or 14.8 percent.
The commission was able to negotiate lower interest rates on its two mortgages for the Old Stone Building, which contains its offices, and Tia Anna Lane home, which houses executive director Adam Turner and his family.
Several competitive grants were awarded to the commission totaling $562,685. The grants were for development of water quality management plans for Island towns, development of database and mapping for historic properties, development of climate change adaptation plans for towns, and development of an Island-wide forest fire management plan.